Read these beautiful books to have a “Murray Christmas” with “a flashy snake” (Christmas lights), a Happy Hanukkah with “five little dreidels spinning all around” and a Celebratory Kwanzaa with a “river of sound”!
You Are the Light, Little Star
By Lisa Edwards Illustrated by Kat Kalindi Viking, 2022, $7.99
What’s that in the winter sky? Why, it’s a golden star that travels closer and closer to Earth as this gentle poem unwinds. Little ones will love looking for the cardinal that graces every double-page spread and spotting the various wild animals – bears, raccoon, foxes – that cross a river and hurry through the forest. The final page brings them all together, to watch as the star, “a wondrous sight,” settles on the top of an evergreen tree and twinkles “on this silent night.” This lovely, rhyming board book is perfect for Baby’s first Christmas.
By Jeffrey Burton Illustrated by Juliana Motzko Simon & Schuster, 2022, $6.99
This lively board book opens with “five little dreidels spinning all around.” The countdown continues as one by one, they fall. The last dreidel wins the chocolate gelt but misses her friends, till a surprise ending gets them up and twirling again. Author Jeffrey Burton trades the five, bed-jumping monkeys from the old folk song for whimsical dreidels to create a clever new Hanukkah favorite for tots.
ages 3 – 9
By Polly Faber Illustrated by Richard Jones Candlewick, 2022, $18.99
Looking for dinner and shelter, a little fox stumbles upon the cozy home of an old gentleman with a beard as white as its fur. The pair do chores together through the seasons, until a sleigh arrives one winter night and off they go to share a most amazing task. The evolving friendship between fox and man is touchingly developed through Polly Faber’s spare, homey text and Richard Jones’ luminous mixed-media art.
By E.G. Keller Abrams, 2022, $17.99
Murray guards his family – two dads and their little girl – zealously and bristles at the intruders in his well-patrolled territory, including a large tree, a “flashy snake” (Christmas lights) and an army of tiny people (Gingerbread men). But when a red-suited old guy dares enter, Murray gives chase until Santa’s charm turns him into a “very helpful dog,” with a present that affirms this identity. This book is laugh-out-loud funny, with the expressive illustrations of pugnacious Murray often at playful odds with the wry text.
By Allison Marks and Wayne Marks Illustrated by Francesca Assirelli Kar-Ben, 2022, $19.99
When finally selected by Sue, the baby of the family, on the first night of Hanukkah, the usually awkward Tizzy takes off. The little dreidel races through the den and skates on the frying pan. She refuses to stop even when declared the winner by the other dreidels, till she realizes she has spun continuously for all eight days of Hanukkah! This rhyming story is so much fun to read aloud that, like Tizzy, you’ll want to keep sharing it over the course of all eight days.
By Sarah L. Thompson Illustrated by Keith Mallett Little, Brown, 2022, $18.99
Celebrate Kwanzaa with this poetic, stunningly illustrated paean to the beautiful black and brown things in the world, as seen through the eyes of a young Black girl. The mood is peaceful and tender, as the child notices a crow’s “inky wings on wet watercolor clouds” and plays a “river of sound” on the “rippling strings” of her polished, dark instrument. Her day ends with safe, quiet, warm sounds and feelings as her Black father tucks her gently into bed. This literary tour de force is perfect for sharing any day of the year.
By Jan Lower Illustrated by Gary Kelley Creative Editions, 2022, $18.99
This lyrical, important biography of slide guitarist Blind Willie Johnson, who died in 1945, brings together details of his tough life as a street singer in Texas with the inclusion of one of his haunting songs on the golden record sent into space through NASA’s Voyager mission in 1977. Johnson is a model of the Kwanzaa principle of Kuumba or creativity not only for our planet but into the vast reaches of the cosmos and well into the future.
ages 10 and up
By Shaun Tan Levine Querido, 2022, $35
Readers of all ages can open this substantive, beautifully designed gift book and lose themselves for hours in the vividly rendered, dream-like universe of internationally acclaimed author/artist Shaun Tan. Interspersed with colored drawings and sketches of his frequently vulnerable animal-machines are Tan’s reflections on creativity and his own process. These meditations illumine both his art and our world. For example, he explores the time, after his college graduation, of artistic uncertainty, which eventually gave rise to the playful, just-for-himself doodles that became his first book, “The Lost Thing”; and he grapples on the page with the transgenerational “postcolonial hubris” that reveals the extent to which we humans misshape (or even excise) nature to suit our needs.